The Orlando Magic fell in overtime to the New York Knicks, 113-106, to end their five-game winning streak and drop, rather curiously, to 5-9 on Mondays this season. Carmelo Anthony, who dubbed the game "an almost must-win" in the early afternoon, scored 33 of New York's 65 points after halftime to lead it to victory, its first since March 17th. Amar'e Stoudemire scored 20 and Chauncey Billups added a sneaky 17, including a quick-trigger trey at the 3:15 mark of overtime to give his club the lead for good.
That Orlando stayed reasonably competitive despite being shorthanded attests to how hard, if not how well, it played. The Magic continued to battle turnover problems, with 21 this evening; shot poorly (11-of-32, 32.5 percent) from three-point range; and let the Knicks shoot 41 free throws. Those deficiencies were too much to surmount, especially in light of the players they missed: starting point guard Jameer Nelson, reserve shooting guard J.J. Redick, and defense-oriented wing Quentin Richardson sat with injuries, which in turn pressed the less skilled Gilbert Arenas, Chris Duhon, and Earl Clark to play larger roles than they would in normal circumstances.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
I don't wish to take anything away from the Knicks in mentioning those factors, though. The Knicks didn't luck into a win here. No, they busted their behinds, limiting the Magic team that had previously torn them apart offensivvely to 106 points on 102 possessions. Dwight Howard didn't make a field goal until early in the third period against New York, which compensated for its lack of size--Shawne Williams, a converted small forward, got the start at center--by sending at least one extra defender at him, hard, on all his post touches in the first half.
But it bears noting that New York didn't do much of anything special tonight, either. Anthony got the ball in isolation sets, went to work, and dominated for the final 29 minutes. That's essentially it; there wasn't much creativity or artistry, which conspired with all the fouls being called to render the game darn near unwatchable despite the close score. Anthony made a series of difficult jumpers, the sorts of shots the Magic should indeed encourage him to take. It didn't matter. He made them. Orlando's D, for the most part, accomplished what it set out to do.
I believe Knicks fans would be the first to tell you their team would likely have lost were Orlando at full strength, and perhaps if the officiating had been tighter in the final minutes. Howard, in the midst of a 29-point, 18-rebound game, fouled out rather dubiously trying to fend off Stoudemire after grabbing an offensive rebound with Orlando down by 2 and 1:16 to play. Jason Richardson poked the ball away from Anthony on the ensuing Knicks possession, igniting a Magic fast break... or it would have, were it not for Richardson getting whistled for tripping Anthony after Anthony shoved him to the court. Toss in the fact that the Knicks' final points in regulation came after an obvious Anthony travel and you'll understand why Magic fans are upset with the officiating.
True, the crew didn't impress tonight; Ken Berger of CBSSports agreed. The Magic lucked out a few times themselves on clear out-of-bounds calls everyone but the referees could see.
But there's no sense in dwelling too much on it, really. The Magic are practically, but not mathematically, locked into the East's fourth playoff seed, and have been for a bit. The remaining eight games on the schedule are strictly academic, with nothing at stake except pride and a chance to fine-tune before the postseason begins. It took an otherworldly effort from Anthony for the Knicks to knock off the gravely shorthanded Magic. Nobody's going to remember this game next week.